“You’re the mockingjay, Katniss. While you live, the rebellion lives...”
Even though it’s a cliché, I did laugh and I did cry while watching Catching Fire, the thrilling second instalment of the film series based on Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy.. It was amusing, emotionally-touching, and it really can set a fire in your belly.
Whether it was the casual way the Gamemakers manipulated the environment, or the tragic state of affairs on the ground in the poorer districts, the story roused a great feeling of injustice and made you want to walk out of the movie theatre and start a rebellion.
In fact, it took me and my friend a moment after we left to (as they say in the film) “remember who the enemy is”. It is to the writer’s and filmmakers’ credit that I felt almost physically ill and pained when the previous victors were forced back into the traumatic experience of the Hunger Games.
In the rich storyworld she created, Collins very cleverly exposed the corruption and class inequality between the luxury and wealth in the Capitol and Districts One and Two and the starving, oppressed masses in, say, District Twelve. At a Capitol party Peeta is offered a drink that will make him throw up so that he can keep on eating all the different dishes on display. He is disgusted by this as he thinks back to the starving, desperate people back in District Twelve.
Instead of making this a matter of lamentation or martyrdom, Collins layers it with the courage and strength of the people, as well as renewed hope.
As President Snow said in the first film, “hope is the only thing stronger than fear”. So, you can see why he starts to get very agitated when people in the more remote districts start an uprising.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) gives another stellar performance, as she makes us both love her as well as hate her for not being totally and utterly in love with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as we are. Effie (Elizabeth Banks) is softer and we can connect more with her in this film. She is fleshed out and we see that below the superficiality and the over-the-top makeup, that there is a heart bleeding for the pain of others.
Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) is ever the occasionally wise, sometimes sharp, and always alcoholic mentor who we loved from his grumpy start. Most of the time he gives short bites of wisdom like “stay alive”, but we see more of his softer, compassionate side when he goes out of his way to protect Katniss and Peeta.
The introduction of new characters like the cunning and strikingly handsome Finnick (Sam Claflin), the resourceful and surprisingly helpful Johanna (Jena Malone), and the other multi-talented and strong Victors who fought for their own and each other’s survival (Mags, Beetee, Wiress, etc.) enrich the story further and each lend support in their own way to the fight against the “real” enemy. Unfortunately many give their lives to this cause, but as long as the survivors can unite to defeat the oppression and injustice, their deaths will not be in vain.
This idea of unity and strength is numbers is pointed out by Haymitch to Katniss in one of my favourite lines from the film: “So it’s you and a syringe against the Capitol? See, this is why no one lets you make the plans.” And plans they make.
This film is riddled with clever plots; outwitting the looming, sinister forces of the Capitol; trying to stay alive against the odds that seem never in their favour; and a fight for justice.
I’m eager to see how they treat the injustice, oppression, corruption, and the growing rebellion in the next and final film, Mockingjay.
Catching Fire deals brilliantly with the exposure of political corruption and the oppression and injustice by those in power as well as promoting hope, love, camaraderie, and friendship. I loved it so much I’m seeing again this week and I’m very excited. So excited that I need to reread book three because I can’t remember what happens next!
Read the books, see the film, and go home and think about all the thought-provoking messages.